By Patrick Groves
MARYSVILLE, Calif. — A man who stole a Sacramento fire engine and led law enforcement agencies on an 85-mile chase, was finally stopped Saturday evening after running over spike strips.
Pursuit of the stolen Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District engine ended on Highway 70 north of Lake Oroville around 6 p.m. Officers arrested a man and a woman, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The engine was stolen at the scene of a vegetation fire in Rio Linda around 4 p.m. CHP and other agencies chased the engine through Sacramento, Placer, Yuba and Butte counties.
Sac Metro Capt. Chris Vestal said the Type 1 engine, used for fighting structural fires in metropolitan areas, has body and wheel damage. Vestal said that, after running over the spikes, the engine finally went off the side of the road and came to a stop when the suspect attempted to drive uphill without tire tread in the 11800 block of Highway 70.
"On the front driver's side, all the rubber had left the wheel so it was driving on the rim," he said. "Naturally we're glad it's over and no one in the community was hurt by this."
The fire engine will be hauled back for a complete review of the damages, including the engine and transmission, Vestal said. No equipment is believed to have been damaged.
"We'll have to ensure mechanically it's sound before it goes back into service," Vestal said.
The department has reserve engines to use in the meantime, he said.
Eyewitnesses said they saw a white male wearing a bandana mask driving the fire engine. Reaching speeds of 70 mph and traveling into oncoming traffic, the driver sped through Wheatland and Marysville. Yuba County Sheriff's deputies assisted CHP by closing roadways to keep vehicles out of the fire engine's path and with spike strips, said Sgt. Brandt Lowe. The agency's canine officer and police dog followed the pursuit, but were not needed, Lowe said.
At one point during the chase, Sac Metro requested officers wait for the fire truck to run out of gas, according to police scanner traffic.
"These are expensive fire engines," Vestal said. "But our number one priority is we don't want people to get hurt by this incident. Not knowing who's driving, you have to assume they don't know how to drive this apparatus."
The fully outfitted engine is worth $1 million.
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